A council tax rise is on the horizon for households in Angus to help balance the local authority’s books.
Finance supremo Angus Macmillan Douglas said a proposed council tax rise will be put before councillors at Thursday’s budget meeting but he remained tight-lipped about how much of an increase to expect.
“We are going to announce the council tax increase on Thursday,” he said.
“We have looked at various different options very carefully so we make the right decision.
“But I’m not going to say what that figure is before the council hear it first – I think that would be wrong.”
Taxpayers have been warned even a 3% increase will not be enough to prevent job cuts at Angus Council in the coming years.
At a budget briefing in Forfar on Monday, Councillor MacMillan Douglas, finance convener at the local authority, said the council’s headcount has reduced by more than 500 over the past five years and the pattern will continue for the next three to five years.
Maximising efficiency has been put at the heart of Angus Council’s approach to delivering the £15.4m of savings required to be met in next year’s £250m budget.
Councillor Macmillan Douglas said efficiency savings already in place including making the council fully digital and agile working had allowed the local authority to protect vital frontline services for the coming year.
“The council has never been so stretched financially than it is just now and that isn’t likely to change soon,” he said.
“We have faced over recent years a relentless and huge cut in Scottish Government funding.
“Our strategy over the past two years has been quite clear – it is to improve efficiency so we can protect frontline services.
“I think this is the best budget we could have put forward.”
Councillor Macmillan Douglas said it was a package of measures to limit any possible negative impact on the services the people of Angus rely on each day.
He admitted the controversial introduction of parking charges was the “most challenging” thing in place.
But he insisted they are here to stay with income of £200,000 identified in the draft budget report for parking in 2019-20.
“Although personally I don’t want to put on parking charges we simply had to do it,” he said.
“If over three years you are losing £40m – which is equivalent to the total cost of primary education in Angus – you can’t just put your head in the sand and not charge for parking.”
A change to waste collection shift patterns would save £160,000, teacher workforce reduction would generate £477,000, and recycling centre changes are proposed to total £160,000 in savings over the next year.
Savings of over £4.5m have also been identified at Angus Health and Social Care Partnership, although the council has stressed that very few of these changes are expected to mean a reduction in service to customers.
Councillor Macmillan Douglas said a zero-based budgeting approach to scrutinise spending would also deliver £2.4m of savings in 2019-20.